Why mature organizations can’t innovate

Why mature organizations can’t innovate

Clayton Christensen is the icon and figurehead of disruptive innovation – after all, it was him who coined the term the first place!  (I am a big fan!)

Now, Professor Christensen concludes that large companies can’t innovate in his famous book “The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators” – and I’m out to prove him wrong!

Why? – In part, perhaps, driven by my passion for disruptive challenges but mostly out of compassion for my talented colleagues, and who deserve better; we we work hard every day to save and improve the lives of patients.

There must be a way of turning around a mature organization. After all, IBM reinvented itself several times and turned from a manufacturing to a services company, what a pivot is that!

Getting back to 10x innovation

So, can a mature pharmaceutical company adapt and pivot from within as well?  After all, innovation in ‘pharma’ is commonly understood to find, develop and bring to market new innovative medicinal drugs as the core business.  In a rapidly and fundamentally changing business environment (see “What is Digital Medicine?), however, the “selling pills” model alone runs flat, the company must find and adapt to new business models to survive and flourish.

Time will tell if “10x vs 10% – Are you still ready for breakthrough innovation?” is possible once again.  Question is, can mature organization turn around? And if so, how?

Shift from Discovery to Delivery

It starts with understanding why innovation slows down in maturing organizations (outliers may confirm the rule) but stay with me here to get the basic principle.  The answer lays in the natural business life cycle: in the start-up phase of an new company, the most important skills are around discovery, i.e. to explore a radically new business opportunity.

As the business gains traction and needs to grows, delivery skills are needed most. Management composition needs to change in order to develop and expand the business professionally; disruptive input is not in demand and can becomes rather inhibiting to the operation that needs to focus on delivering output reliably and at scale. Innovation shifts from disruption to incremental improvement and rightly so, yet it comes at a price as it leads to predictable obstacles (see Overcoming the Three Big Hurdles to Innovation in Large Organizations)

Research shows that disruptive innovators are typically not good at delivery and growing the company.  As the business matures, they need help and often move on to do what they do best: starting some new, while the company matures in the hands of management that can deliver.

Downfall

Over time, however, markets get saturated and the established business model may no longer work, profits decline. Now here comes the inflection point: the management was hired for its delivery skills.  They don’t really know how to renew the business, since they never created one.  What they do know is how to prolong the downturn by clinging to the outdated business model while squeezing out inefficiencies and saving cost.  Research confirms, little surprise, that the maturity managers are good at delivery but mediocre at best when it comes to discovery.

The company, a supertanker, became a slowly sinking ship.  Group-think, the mindset and engrained culture, prevents disruption from breaking through.  After all, no passionate out-of-the-box thinker or entrepreneur has been hired for years.  Instead, Ivy League graduates with MBAs are favored that runs the business more administratively, bureaucratically, without taking significant risks – who would ever take the risk and hire a crazy guy, right?

Turning to Intrapreneuring

So, where should the turnaround come from?  Here comes the The Rise of the Intrapreneur!

To connect things again in news ways to create and build an innovation-friendly ecosystem while chipping away the on the resistance of the “organizational immune system.”

Over the next posts we will introduce and explore intrapreneurial methods using the example of a pharmaceutical company and member of the FORTUNE Global 500 club.

Author: Stephan Klaschka

Stephan Klaschka is an awarded innovation executive, C-level consultant, Intrapreneur, and serial entrepreneur with over 25 years of international work experience. He held various senior business operations, strategy, regulatory compliance and innovation roles with Boehringer Ingelheim, leaving as Director of Global Innovation Management and Strategy. In this first-of-its-kind position, Stephan's work was central to the new growth rejuvenation strategy as a catalyst to initiate and drive pivotal innovations, leadership development, and disruptive and digital transformation across the Boehringer Ingelheim group worldwide. He has recently served as CEO interim of the "German Institute for Telemedicine and Health Promotion" (DITG). Stephan holds Masters Degrees in Computer Science, Management, and Business Administration as well as advanced degrees in Strategy, Innovation, and Leadership from leading schools in Europe and the United States. PMP certified. He has published extensively and created award-winning workshops on topics including intrapreneurship, healthcare, pharma, and new technologies. Stephan currently consults independently out of New York.

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